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What is the best cell phone carrier for OKC?

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Our local geek tech expert weighs in on consumer electronics for Oklahoma:

Question: What is the best cell phone carrier for OKC?

I love my mobile phone.  It has become my new obsession in geek tech.  There are so many to choose from but there is one question we all must answer.  Which cell phone carrier should I choose? There’s quite a bit of hatred out there for the carriers, and to be fair, all of them have done things in the past to deserve the fury, but with a little homework and some lite decision making, you can make the best out of your mobile phone situation.

There are four big carriers in the United States: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.  Each of these uses one of two networks: CDMA and GSM (I’m not even going to tell you what these acronyms stand for, but there are some things you may want to know about the differences.)
GSM -
- AT&T and T-Mobile only
-uses SIM Cards that can be swapped into new phones
-can send and receive data while on a call
-Easy to travel with.  (Most other countries use GSM only)

CDMA -
-Verizon and Sprint only
-no SIM Cards to mess with
-most handsets still can’t send and receive data while on a call
-has fewer dropped calls
-Cox Wireless, Boost Mobile and Virgin use these two networks.

This might be a good place for your decision making to start. There are limitations to both but if multi-tasking while on the phone is your bag, a GSM phone may be your choice. However, if dropped calls are driving you crazy, a CDMA phone may be your best bet.  For Oklahoma City purposes, both of these technologies are widespread throughout the state. Here’s a neat little trick:  Remember 2G?  It’s still very useful.  If you have a GSM phone and are having a hard time making phone calls, turn off the 3G network and use 2G network.  It was designed to have a stronger signal and can penetrate walls much better!

Now to the new high speed, new technology fun stuff. Which one has faster data speeds in Oklahoma?  In recent years, Oklahoma always has gotten the good tech last.  4G networks are a huge buzzword in the mobile phone wars these days, but when buying a new phone, make sure you understand what is available in your area.  Verizon has been spouting its 4G LTE service for some time now, and while is really fast, it’s still not available in OKC.  Sprint is the same way.  Both of these companies have plans to roll out this new technology to all of its networks, but it may still be awhile.

AT&T calls its network 4G also but it uses a technology called HSPA+.  This also hasn’t been introduced to Oklahoma yet, but the company has said it is coming soon. As of this writing the only real 4G option we have in Oklahoma is T-Mobile.  They just flipped the switch on their HSPA+ network and Oklahoma City was one of the few lucky cities to get the upgrade.  HSPA+ isn’t as fast as LTE theoretically, but it still has speeds that could reach 22 megabits per second (Mbit/s) to 84 Mbit/s.  In the real world it may only be around 14 Mbit/s.  This is still very fast and it’s a huge jump from 3G speeds.

So which one is the best for Oklahoma City?  In terms of reliability, Verizon is a good choice.  They just acquired the popular iPhone 4 this year and their Android phone selection is almost second to none, but we’ll talk about hand sets on another post.  If customer service, speed and lower cost is more your style, T-Mobile is a very good choice indeed.  They constantly rank very high on customer service websites like Consumer Reports.  I would personally suggest T-mobile over Verizon if not for one tiny smudge on the company’s future.  AT&T is in talks to buy T-Mobile and if it goes through, it could change the entire company.  AT&T is constantly on the low end of the table when it comes to customer service and has high rates.  The FCC could and may deny this transaction, so keep this in mind when making your decision.

As for Sprint, they recently just made it very easy for users to integrate their Android phones with Google Voice, which is an amazing service that manages all of your voice-mail, texts and even gives you a new phone number, but this new service launched very recently has had some issues, including complaints of bad customer service to Google voice not working at all.

In summary, these are the questions you need to ask yourself before choosing a carrier.  What’s important?  Do you want speed or reliability?  Are you going to travel outside of the U.S.?  How is the company’s customer service? How much are the usage packages? Whatever the question is, remember to do your homework.  All of these answers are just a Google search away, but hopefully, you now know what questions to ask.

Contributed by guest blogger: Matt Cash – a connoisseur of geeking out for less.  Follow him on twitter: @matthewrcash

CCCS is a non-profit Credit Counseling agency with offices in Oklahoma City, Bethany, Enid, Stillwater and Tinker Air Force Base. Contact us at http://www.cccsok.org or 1-800-364-2227

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